Annual Conference

A recording of the first of our three annual conferences is now available on our dedicated channel on YouTube.

Over the course of its tenure, our project will be hosting annual conferences with our international scholars and faculty sponsors.

Ordering Moments in World Politics (2021): this first theme is about the theory and history of ordering moments. Looking back, what do we know about how international orders are created and destroyed? From the classical age into the modern era, orders have come and gone. What have been the circumstances and causal logics of these macro-political cycles? How do we identify and describe international orders across the ancient and modern eras? What are the theoretical debates about order building in international relations? Within the field of international relations, there is a debate about the sources and character of international order. Interestingly, it is in part a debate among realists – balance of power realists, such as Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer, and hegemonic or power transition realists, such as E.H. Carr and Robert Gilpin. There is a lively debate about how international order over the last two millennia has tended to be organized – and William Wohlforth, Barry Buzan, and others have offered sweeping arguments about the ways in which the balance of power and imperial orders have been manifest across the centuries. Much of the historical work in this area has been cast as studies of empire and the Western ascendency, while other work has looked at regions, civilizations, and resistance and counter-movements in world history. During this first year, we will attempt to bring global historians, historical sociologies, and IR scholars together to compare their framing ideas and arguments. 

Crisis and Resilience of Liberal International Order (2022): this second theme will focus on theories and debates about international order as they swirl around the crisis of the American-led postwar order. Many questions follow immediately. What precisely is the nature of the crisis? Is it a crisis of American hegemony or a deeper crisis of liberal democracy and liberal internationalism?   It is a power transition crisis or a crisis of liberal modernity? It is remarkable that over the last decade a vigorous debate has developed over the fate of the “liberal international order.” This term has become a surrogate for a diverse set of debates and agendas. Some are focused on American hegemony, others on the Western system of regimes and institutions, and still others on the deep principles of democracy, liberalism, and the rule of law. This tangle of ideas and debates needs to be sorted out. Beyond this, the second annual conference will seek to raise questions about the resiliency of political institutions. There is general agreement that the Trump administration is pursuing policies and acting in ways that jeopardize parts of the postwar system of order – its rules, roles, alliances, and organizational logic. This can be thought of as the “Trump treatment” of international order. At our second annual conference, our researchers will evaluate the Trump treatment – to use the upheaval and uncertainty of American power and purpose to evaluate how institutions and relationships cope. Leaving aside the political debates about Trump, what can be learn from this moment about the resiliency and adaptation of modern political order?    

Reimagining World Order (2023): the final theme will focus explicitly on the diverse models or visions of the coming international order. What kind of international order do rising states want? This leads us to think about world order debates as a sort of United Nations of geographically organized viewpoints. This might be useful as a starting point. But we will want to go further to look at alternative visions that grow out of different normative frameworks and social theories. After all, intellectual positions are not simply distributed geographically across to the world map. Intellectual positions on world order are not simply reflections of national interests – they are reflections of values and moral convictions as well.